Man, is the Spirit alive there! I celebrated my 52nd birthday while there and could not have been given a better gift than the OneHope Africa regional directors praying God’s blessing over my life.
I’m always humbled and amazed by the rapid growth and strength of the African Church. In the past, we sent missionaries to evangelize the African nations. The reality is that they’ve grown to be such spiritual giants they’re now sending missionaries to evangelize the increasingly pagan west!
Here is what I think we can learn from what they’re doing well:
- Spirit empowered. As soon as you step foot on the continent, you can immediately sense pockets of darkness and light. Since most African nations have a long history rooted in mystic religions, they are more naturally attuned to the spiritual realm and innately wired to rely on the Holy Spirit. Their worship knows no boundaries, and miracles happen there almost daily. What depth of faith!
- Church planting model. The African Church has created its own rural church planting model. A local church is challenged to plant and reach their own people and proximities. A “sending church” is responsible to train lay leaders and send them to plant new churches in nearby towns and villages. As each church plant grows in spiritual maturity, it grows into a “home” church which sends more church planters. The strategic ripple effect of church planting is fast-broadening the sprawl as locals rapidly plant multiple new churches in contiguous regions. Additionally, a new model of urban church planting is beginning to emerge. However, new thinking and praxis are needed in this space – not just in Africa, but around the world.
- Innovation is a must. In order to communicate the Gospel, the African Church has realized that they must utilize progressive communication avenues such as literacy and educational programs, the Internet, radio, and television. They are willing to adapt and craft messages full of truth that contextually resonate with the young people they are trying to reach by packaging it in a relevant and generative way.
- Tension is making the Church strong. While Christianity is flourishing in Sub-Saharan Africa and rapidly growing northward, Islam is spreading down the continent. The two religions are gaining momentum and find themselves barreling toward each other. The race is to evangelize and reinforce a multitude of new believers ready to withstand the clash in the heart of the African Sahel. The constant, lurking threat of Islam has been a driving impetus for Christians to plant churches and disciple new believers to go deep in their faith, and fast.
- They speak the language of “From all, to all.” The 20th century was the “haves” of the North taking the Gospel to the “have nots” of the South and East. At that time, 75% of the Global Church existed in Europe and the U.S. That is not the case today—in fact, it is nearly the reverse. The African Church and its Diaspora are beginning to plant churches around the world. Some of the largest churches in Europe are now pastored by Africans, and increasingly in the U.S., African laity are the most spiritually vibrant and evangelistically alive parishioners – particularly in the urban core metropolis. We in the West need to become more intentional about partnering with the African Church to reach ethnic enclaves of Somalis, Sudanese, and other least-reached peoples that are part of the global diaspora.
I spoke on transformational leadership in South Africa, and I was humbled as I considered that just a few decades ago many churches and ministries viewed the African church as a “receiver” in need of our help. Now, here we are today–standing together in unity, leveraging the strength of the African Church. It’s a beautiful picture of John 17: co-laboring and collaborating for powerful Kingdom transformation.